Library Research Skills Tutorial About the tutorial
Using Libraries


When searching a library catalogue you are searching across data in each individual record. This data is normally divided into separate indexes according to the data type, eg author, title, subject heading. You can search across these indexes individually and also you can usually conduct a word or keyword search across all of the indexes in the library catalogue, for example:

Screen shot of the search  box of the Senate House Library catalogue

Which type of search to choose?

  • Search a specific index like Author or Title when you only want to retrieve that type of data.
  • Use a Subject index search when you want to browse for items in a particular subject area. Remember you will be searching an index of pre-defined subject headings which have been assigned to materials. If you have problems using this type of search, try a keyword search or ask a member of library staff for help.
  • Use a Keyword search if you are not sure what your search term is, for example if you do not know if your search term is a title or subject heading, or if you want to search across many indexes at once.
  • Search using an ISBN/ISSN or Classmark index when you wish to retrieve a specific item from the library catalogue.

Advanced search options

Many library catalogues also enable you to construct a more complex search string, such as combining multiple search terms and limiting your search to subsets of the catalogue. More detailed help is available about constructing search strings from the 'using electronic resources' section of this tutorial.

External Linking

Using metasearch technology a library catalogue may now also have the ability to search resources external to itself, such as other library catalogues and online databases. Remember that if you are using this type of catalogue not all the results returned will be located in one specific library.

Try it yourself

Try using the Senate House Library Catalogue to search for a book, such as Black, Jeremy, Britain since the seventies: politics and society in the consumer age (London, Reaktion, 2004). On the catalogue record note the 'Other Resources' button on the right, this enables you to conduct the same search in resources other than the library catalogue.

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